As is my custom of late, I attended the board meeting tonight. I truly hate to write this, but it was a waste of an hour of my life. However no one ever said that accountability was easy. I will therefore continue to attend these meetings and raise questions. Maybe they will occasionally, mistakenly, answer them.
The board, under the direction of Dr. Wardynski, has become adept at conducting it’s business in a covert fashion. For example, the board approved 14 of the 15 items under the “Consent Agenda” from their agenda, without any discussion and with just one vote. The only item in the list that warranted any discussion at all was “Temporary Personnel Staffing for Huntsville City Schools.”
It seems that someone at ONIN must have upset the board because come to find out, the board is still offering temporary contracts to “another” staffing agency. The primary difference is that this new and unnamed staffing agency is not providing any Instructional Assistants to the system.
Once again, the board is happy to spend money, they are just refusing to spend it on Special Needs staffing issues.
Additionally, the board then moved through their “New Business” with expediency. Only two of the nine items under “New Business” received any discussion at all: the “Human Resources Report” and the “Certification of Expenditures.”
Concerning the “Human Resources Report,” Ms. Belinda Williams, Director of Human Resources, offered the following assessment of the system’s hiring for the 2011-2012 school year that begins in eleven working days: “We are progressing. We are a little behind, but we’re getting there.” She then stated that many of the hires must “wait until school starts to see who shows up.”
So according to her official report (although the board does not make the Human Resources report available to the public), many of the positions that the schools need to hire for the school year beginning in eleven days will have to wait until after school begins to be completed.
I wonder how many other school systems wait until after school begins to complete their hiring for that year?
As I pointed out to the board in my comments to the board tonight, we are disturbingly behind in our hiring. Teachers are woefully understaffed, and the board, Dr. Wardynski and Ms. Williams believe “we are progressing.”
While discussing the “Certification of Expenditures,” they followed their established pattern of speaking in a code that only those who can see the 38 page report are capable of understanding. They stated that their current estimates show that the system will finish the year with a surplus. Additionally, this surplus includes the repaying of the $9 Million dollar loan they have received from the City by January.
They pointedly did not share with the public how much that projected surplus will be. The budget hearings are tentatively set for August 18th, but that day is not one that anyone in the room tonight was able to actually confirm.
At the end of the meeting, the Board was magnanimous enough to allow citizens comments. I was one of two people to speak. During his introduction to the citizen comments, Mr. Birney made a point of suggesting that citizens refrain from using the comments time to ask questions of the board. Any questions should, according to Mr. Birney, be asked in private.
For the record, my comments tonight have been asked in private. Many times. As I posted earlier tonight, I asked most of the same questions on Saturday night. While I have received confirmation from Dr. Robinson that she has received this email and forwarded it on to Dr. Wardynski, neither of them has taken a moment to respond to the questions I’ve raised.
Here are the comments that I offered tonight.
To my comments, the board refused to respond. Parental issues and questions, even when they potentially involve legal issues, are ignored.
Matthew 25:44-45 says, “Then they will also answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you?’ The Jesus will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these my children, you did it not to me.’”
In February and April following Dr. Richardson’s recommendations, the Board made the deepest personnel cuts to one single group: Special Education. Special Education represents approximately 12% of the schools population, but we received 41% of the state funded support personnel cuts, and we received 53% of the ONIN cuts when that contract was cancelled. The Board has not revealed how many of the 154 teachers who lost their jobs were special education teachers, but we know that they were a significant portion of those cuts as well.
Alabama State Code 16-39-3 states that, “If sufficient funds are not available to a school board to provide fully for all the provisions of this chapter as well as the educational needs of nonexceptional children, such board must prorate all funds on a per capita basis between exceptional and nonexceptional children.”
The board has placed at a minimum 41% of the support personnel budget cuts on just over 12% of the student population.
We do not currently have nearly enough aides, occupational therapists, speech therapists or even certified teachers to meet the requirements of the IEPs to begin the year. Excellent aides and Superb teachers have been lost to the system because of delays in hiring, and special needs children are still being consolidated without input from parents.
The personnel cuts approved by the board earlier this year were not applied fairly and equally. It would also seem that they were not applied legally.
We have two weeks to rectify these issues. Where are the job postings for the Aides and OTs? Where are the job posting for the teachers? Where is the written plan detailing the segregation of the least of these our children? We cannot wait any longer.
The board has balanced their budget on the backs of the most vulnerable of our students. And they seemingly don’t care.